Darjeeling Portraits creates family heirlooms in celebration of our furry BFFs…
Let me tell you a few things about Owen Staszewski: he’s an incredible drummer, singer, and dancer. Sensitive, quick-witted, and funny — he’s an all-around top-notch guy. (And married to one of Free People’s equally talented and clever wovens designers.)
And just a few years ago, Owen added “pet portrait painter” to his already impressive resume. As someone who already dabbled extensively in art (one of his previous jobs was hand-rendering signs at the local Trader Joe’s), Owen was commissioned to paint a friend’s dog who had recently passed away. It was with this project, in honor of Buddy, that Owen realized his newest calling — Darjeeling Portraits.
To date, he’s painted over 50 cats and dogs, some living their best lives and others who have crossed the rainbow bridge.
“My hope is that these portraits bring people happiness, and can be passed down as a lasting tribute to a family best friend. I think having a portrait painted in a pet’s honor can also help to heal the heart and move on.”
I was curious what a typical day in the life of a pet portrait artist looked like, or if there could even be such a thing. Here’s a snippet from Owen’s diary entry:
8 AM alarm sounds. No snooze. Out of bed and downstairs for my morning coffee. Feed Bear (my doggo) and take him for his morning walk around the neighborhood. This is when I reflect on the day ahead and figure out my game plan.
Before I begin any project, I make sure I’ve got the right photo to work from, and know whether I’m capturing a serious or goofy side. (I’m always up for both!)
When trying to capture the spirit and personality of a pet, I pay a lot of attention to their eyes. You can really show so much emotion through their expression.
Now it’s time to tone the canvas. I like to use burnt umber diluted with odorless mineral spirits. Something about the warm earthy brown makes a stark white canvas more inviting.
Now, with my reference photo taped below my canvas, I can start sketching out the painting, keeping it simple and focusing on proportions and bold shapes.
Once I am confident in my sketch, I can start mixing colors and laying in some paint.
Starting with the darkest areas and mid tones I begin to block in the most obvious shapes. Perhaps the shadow on the side of its face or the tuft of fur behind the ears.
By this time, the subject is starting to come to life and look more three-dimensional. I can almost hear its playful growl…
Wait, no that’s my stomach… Time for lunch!
Owen Staszewski, with Bear. Photos by Don Vincent Ortega.
(Which, Owen said, is usually three tacos.)
Although he was once intimidated by them, Owen’s medium of choice is oils, used in conjunction with a fast-drying medium called liquin. “It’s amazing, being able to mix colors that stay wet all day, as opposed to acrylics which pretty much dry within the hour. Also, the buttery consistency of oil paint is so satisfying to mix. The only downside to oil is the drying time but I’m a patient man and it’s well worth it!”
Perhaps fitting for Owen, so he can make time to enjoy dinner with Gemma, some wine and a whole lot of Seinfeld.
If you’re interested in commissioning Owen for an heirloom all your own — or for a gift — visit here.
Note: to ensure delivery in time for the holidays, please place your order no later than December 3rd!